Senior U.N. post for Shashi Tharoor

The Indian writer, Shashi Tharoor, has been appointed Under-Secretary-General for Public Information, a job he has held on a temporary basis for the past 16 months.

A life-long U.N. official, Mr. Tharoor (46), is the author of six novels and two non-fiction books. Educated in India and London, he was 22 years old when he earned a doctorate and two masters

degrees at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Massachusetts.

The delay in making permanent Mr. Tharoor's appointment as head of the Department of Public Information was in part because of his youth, said Fred Eckhard, spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. The department has more than 400 staff in New York and 300 abroad.

``He is unusually young to achieve this level. I think probably the Secretary-General wanted to give him a chance to see what he could do,'' said Mr. Eckhard, adding that Mr. Tharoor submitted a reorganisation plan last week.

His new post is fraught with difficulties and several ambassadors, including the former U.S. representative, Richard Holbrooke, have criticised the department as wasteful.

Mr. Tharoor is author of an award-winning 1989 political satire, ``The Great Indian Novel'' and in 1997 wrote ``India: from Midnight to the Millennium'', a political and economic study after independence.

Mr. Tharoor joined the U.N. in May 1978 in the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva and was head of its Singapore office at the peak of the Vietnamese ``boat people'' crisis in the early 1980s.

He was transferred to the peacekeeping department in New York in 1989, several years before Mr. Annan led that division. During Mr. Tharoor's tenure, he was the desk officer for the controversial U.N. operations during the Bosnian war. When Mr. Annan became the Secretary-General in 1997, Mr. Tharoor was transferred to his executive office. In 1989, he was named by the World Economic Forum in Davos as a ``global leader of tomorrow''.